Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Audiobook Review: The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau

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Title: The People of Sparks
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Narrator: Wendy Dillon
Publisher: Listening Library
Duration: 7 hours, 55 minutes
Series: Ember, Book 2
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
"It is green here and very big. Light comes from the sky...."
When Lina and Doon lead their people up from the underground city of Ember, they discover a surface world of color and life. The people of a small village called Sparks agree to help the Emberites, but the villagers have never had to share their world before. Soon differences between the two groups escalate, and it's up to Lina and Doon to find a way to avoid war!
Overall Rating: 3/5

The Ember series is about a post-apocalyptic world, where a war destroyed civilization as we know it. In the first book, we are introduced to people in an underground city who find out that they are underground and escape to the outside world. The People of Sparks continues their adventures, with Lina and Doon remaining as main characters. They come across a village called Sparks, and the people reluctantly take in the Emberites, promising to teach them how to live in the outside world. However, this strains their resources and arguments take place, gradually escalating into the beginnings of a war.

I love that DuPrau is able to depict a dystopia that middle-grade readers can understand, without losing much complexity. She doesn't hold back, and the stories of how the world became ruined are horrifying in their simplicity and realism. War. That's all it comes down to -- people engaging in war and ruining each other. Now, everyone must start from scratch and learn how to survive all over again by growing their own food, and learning how to live without modern-day conveniences such as electricity and plumbing.

Lina is still my favorite character. Unlike Doon in this book, who loses sight of his values for a little bit, Lina never forgets who she is. She's adventurous and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. I liked that she travels outside of Sparks, because seeing the destroyed cities and freeways through her eyes is at once devastating and kind of cool. I was able to get a better idea of how trashed their world really is.

The thing that prevented me from completely falling in love with this novel is that all the conflict arose from such petty arguments. Sparks people were reluctant to share food, Emberites were tired of working, etc. I really just wanted everyone to suck it up and put themselves in the others' shoes. While I understand that the pettiness was there to show readers how quickly petty arguments can escalate, what it came down to for me was how believable it all was. In a post-apocalyptic world, I would expect many more people than the two or three that were against all the bad decisions to be more intelligent and generous.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, and it has sound effects for some parts; I was not a fan of most of them. The ones with the riot scene, as well as the very last scene worked incredibly well and I really enjoyed them. As for the rest, I thought they were awkward and distracted from the scene rather than added to it. However, I usually don't like sound effects, so for pro-sound effect people, I don't think this will be a problem.

Dillon is an average narrator. Not bad, but not overly fantastic. I like narrators who make the story come to life and make me forget that it's an audiobook. That didn't happen for me in this one -- I felt like I was being read a story. This isn't a bad thing, but it's nothing that I would go out of my way to recommend. I think print may be better for this one.

I think this series is a great introduction to dystopia for young readers. It's straightforward, easy to understand, and has a good message.